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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
In her first year as head coach of the Elmira College cheerleading team Amber Myers helped guide the Soaring Eagles to a National Title.

The wait for number two was a lot longer than Myers may have wanted, but 15 years later she has another title as Elmira won the third national championship in program history at the 2022 National Cheerleaders Association College Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“I just finished up my 16th year here at Elmira College,” Myers said. “I was fortunate enough my first year to win a National Championship.  It’s been a long 15 years with a lot of ups and downs. With 2020 having to break there hearts and tell them Nationals was canceled. 2021, we were fortunate to go, one of the great things about Elmira College is that cheerleading is an actual sport and the college was behind us.”

The Soaring Eagles have been so close in recent years. After having no nationals in 2020, the team was runner-up last year. They have finished in the top four every year since 2014, but the goal is always the same — bring home a national title.

“Honestly, our goal every year is to win a national championship,” Myers said. “I’m very up front in the recruiting process is at least get one in four years here. In my 16 years here we have never been out of top five and we have played top three multiple times.

“I feel like we drive so hard every year, this is our goal. If the odds end up in our favor, awesome. If not, it doesn’t mean it was not a successful year, it just makes us work harder for next year. We have a strong alumni base. WE call it ECC4L, Elmira College Cheer For Life, it’s something we have forever.”

For the cheerleaders winning nationals was magical.

“It feels like a dream, like it didn’t really happen,” Liana Levine said. “Everything we went through this year, it all paid off in the end.”

“It still feels unreal,” Katie Jones added. “My first nationals was last year, I’m a sophomore this year, last year we got second place, this year was a lot harder, but it was still worth it.”

The start of the year was rough, as the team opened the season quarantined, costing them the normal way they get their bid to nationals.

“We battled a lot,” Myers said. “We started the year in actual quarantine. Resiliency was our team this year and we put one foot in front of another and it ended up paying off.

“Typically we go to Boston to compete at the National Cheerleaders Association Camp in August. Every year we compete with teams throughout the East Coast to get one of their paid bids to Nationals. Prior to Covid we got a gold bid to nationals for 12 years in a row. We brought our athletes to pre-camp before Boston and on day three of pre-camp one of my athletes tested positive, so more than half the team ended up in quarantine, so it was a very different way of doing things. We had to register for a home camp, which was hard to schedule because we had a lot of policies on campus for visitors. Finally in November we had a home camp and got our bronze bid. When you look back on everything we did, sometimes the hard road leads to the best outcome.”

For the cheerleaders they just put in the work and overcame any adversity.

“The beginning of the season started off with Covid, we took every day by the day,” Jones said. “We had so much happen that it just paid off int he end. We just worked together. Our word this year was resilience and we were resilient this year.”

There were challenges early in the season that the team overcame as the year went on.

“It was a little mix of both (Covid challenges and things being normal),” Jones said. “We started with make and slowly got out of that. Other than that we still just see what the future holds for us.”

This season was a bit more toward normal for nationals with fans in the stands this year.

Last year it was not a lot of people,” Jones said. “Not a lot of teams, this year was a lot different from last year. A lot of teams, it was a little more nerve-wracking, but standing on that bandshell gives you the best feeling in the world.”

After getting so close last year the athletes were driven this year.

“All the support you have, everyone watching you, all eyes on me, I have to show what I can do,” Levine said.

“All the time (last year), I just wanted that to be me. I was wishing the entire season, I want that jacket, I want that banner.”

What made this season season even more amazing was that many of the athletes who were part of the national title were freshmen and sophomores.

“We graduated a lot last year,” Myers said. “This year I graduate four athletes who gave four amazing years to the program and will be deeply missed. The majority of my team this year, I won with freshmen and sophomores. We have a strong recruiting class next year. I am excited to see what the future holds. Sometimes getting to the top is easy, staying there is difficult.”

After winning the national title the cheerleaders returned home to a heroes welcome at Elmira College with a rally to honor the team.

“It has been crazy, the support from the school has been great,” Alexandria Halstead said. “It was great, all the other athletes on campus were very supportive. They call us all natty champs, it makes us feel real good for going and winning.”

Myers knows that the way things are at Elmira is special.

“We are one of the very few schools in this entire country that is full funded (for cheerleading),” Myers said. “That has a full time coach, especially being a small D3 private college, it’s something that sets us apart. With the days of social media and them being able to see us and get us support and all the posts and all the videos from the athletic department and the school in general. It’s one of the biggest sells.

“That really separates us and something that has kept me here all these years and kept our alumni base as strong as it is as well. I really can’t speak enough about how supported EC Cheer is by our entire administration, and our athletic department. All the athletes were at the celebration, whenever we walk by they call us champs. That wouldn’t happen at another campus.”

There is a ton of commitment that went into becoming champions.

We have a very long season,” Myers said. “We start with camp in August and they go home for a couple weeks, pick back up in September. It’s first term and second term. Definitely the longest season (of any sport). Burnout is a thing, but with every set back comes a major comeback.

“I feel like this was a difficult year with an awesome ending result. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel no matter what we go through.”

The feeling after being a champion is just different than after taking second.

“It’s definitely more fun, everybody is happy, cheering you on,” Levine said.

For Myers the national championship just means even more good recruits in the future.

“It makes everything easier,” Myers said. “It makes everything better. Who doesn’t want to cheer for a team that just won a national championship. It’s exciting for recruits who committed prior and it’s exciting for recruits on the fence. It matters a lot. I know myself, I feel more confident walking into places, meeting recruits and national champions.”

Now that the Soaring Eagles have won a national title, the goals for next year are to repeat.

“I can already see it in their demeanors and personality now and this is technically our offseason,” Myers said. “I now they got a taste of what it feels like and they will do everything in their power to run it back to back.

“I am so excited for next season. As far as I am concerned next season started as soon as the day we got back from nationals. I truly don’t think we will go through as much as we went through this year. I am looking forward to hitting the ground running with this motivation and this group behind us.”

For the girls’ the goals are high now.

“We don’t speak second place no more,” Jones said. “I am excited for next season. So many athletes coming in with so many skills. I’m excited for the years after.”

The title just makes the athletes want to work that much harder.

“It’s a driving factor to try and keep winning and not stop,” Halstead said.

“I am so excited for next year to see what we can do from this,” Levine said.

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